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Hard Knocks and a Soft Touch

Dr. Pearl Herzog

She may have been the first Jewish woman ever arrested in Palestine, but that is far from Anne Edith Landau’s only claim to fame. Her dedication to children and the needy, coupled with her integrity, made this Jerusalem headmistress a legend.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Anne Edith’s strong idealism and principles were a legacy from her parents, Markus (Mordechai) and Chaya Kohn Landau. Originally Mordechai Fredkin from Mogilev, Russia, Anne Edith’s father, a serious talmid chacham, acquired a forged passport and changed his name to Landau to escape conscription into the Czarist army. Anne Edith’s mother descended from a line of rabbis. Together the couple raised 18 children (five from Mordechai’s first marriage) in London, where Mordechai engaged in several different trades — shoe manufacturing, shechitah, and selling Pesach groceries. (The hashgachah on his kosher-for-Pesach products was endorsed by him and designated by his picture.) Unhappy with the hashkafah of the London Jewish Chronicle, he also published a newspaper from his basement called the Jewish Standard from 1888 to 1891. Mordechai’s writings convey his steadfast beliefs about Torah and education and his disappointment with the level of Yiddishkeit taught in London’s Jewish schools: “Our contemporaries contend that Judaism has been formed in a plastic mould, and requires to be re-modelled according to the shifting needs of every age. We believe, on the other hand, that the written and oral law, as revealed on Sinai, is fixed and unchangeable… The Torah is surely at least as efficient an instrument as the Latin and Greek Classics which absorb so much time in an ordinary school.” These values ultimately shaped the worldview of daughter Anne Edith. Mordechai also founded two tzedakah organizations, one that provided meals for Shabbos and another that ran a hachnassas orchim house, both managed by his wife Chaya. Years later, Anne Edith would inculcate in her students the value of chesed gleaned from her mother. At the advice of her mother’s uncle, RabbiMosheWeiskopf, a prominent rabbi inParis,AnneEdith attended theRabbiSamsonRaphaelHirsch high school in Frankfurt, and boarded with her mother’s family. One of her teachers there was RabbiMendelHirsch, a son ofRabbiSamsonRaphaelHirsch.

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